I turned on Sportscenter the other night, and one of the anchors was talking about how the endings of close NBA games tend to be dragged out for what seems like hours. I think the word he used was “interminable.” I figured he was about to announce that the NBA commissioner was doing something to quicken the pace, but no. It turns out the new NBA rules increase the number of plays that are eligible for instant replay review, potentially increasing the length of the average game, as well as those pivotal moments at the end
I couldn’t help but wonder about instant replay’s place in baseball. As it is, instant replay can only be used in the MLB to determine boundary home run calls (fair/foul, in/out, fan interference). Some people are adamantly for further uses of instant replay, while others are just as strongly opposed to it. I’m near the fence on this issue, but definitely on the opposed side.
I understand the argument for instant replay. You’re sitting at home, watching your favorite team. It’s a tie ball game in the bottom of the eight, and your team’s leadoff man is on first. On the first pitch, he makes a move for second, but gets thrown out. Before you throw your remote across the room, you watch the replay, which clearly shows the runner was safe. It wasn’t even close! How did that blind, confused, ignorant man ever get a job as an umpire? If he could just step into the clubhouse, watch the replay, and reverse the call, all would be right in the world. Right?
I know exactly how it feels to be in that situation. How many times has Michael Bourn been called out incorrectly this season? I lost count early on. If instant replay could be used to correct judgment calls on the base paths, Armando Galarraga would have a perfect game under his belt, and Jim Joyce would get a lot less hate mail.
While I’m all for the right call being made, I don’t think it’s the most important issue here. There are some really good reasons not to use instant replay. First, as mentioned above in reference to the NBA, instant replay extends game time. Baseball is the only major sport without a defined time limit, so in theory the games could last for days (and sometimes they do). Every time instant replay is used, it pauses and extends the length of the game. Some games already last three and a half or four hours. Our (and by our, I mean the human race) attention spans are dwindling, so I think it would be bad for the growth of the sport for the games to get any longer.
Next, there’s the ‘slippery slope’ argument. If instant replay is expanded, where do we draw the line for using technology in baseball? Boston manager Bobby Valentine has made the argument for automated ball and strike calls. Now, Bobby Valentine has done and said some pretty questionable things this season, but he doesn’t seem to be alone in his stance. LA first basemen James Loney has predicted the use of electronic umpires in the future. Can you imagine a game called entirely by computers? Could we even call it baseball?
Here’s my last point: human error should be a part of the game. Take the human error out of the game, and you can forget about controversy. Forget about furious arguments and ejections. How could a manager argue if every call is proved correct? Also, human error might make the game flawed, but it doesn’t flaw the game in a way that gives any one team an advantage. Human error is fair. Take, for example, the first two games of this week’s series against the Marlins, both won by just one run, and both featuring some very close, controversial calls. Perhaps with an expanded use of instant replay, Jason Heyward is called safe at first in the ninth and the Braves rally to win. On the other hand, in the second game, maybe the instant replay proves that Ruggiano to be safe on that close play at the plate. Every team in the league has to deal with bad calls, and every team gets a break here and there.
Baseball should be a reflection of life. No one is perfect. People make mistakes. Sometimes you do everything right and you still can’t win. An overuse of instant replay could suck the life out of the game. I’ll take the wildcard factor of umpiring over the cut and dry clarity of instant replay any day.